Barry and I told stories in a library recently. A multicultural audience of young children and their parents filled the plush, auditorium seats. They were attentive and happy. Everyone sang and clapped along, laughed in all the right places, and were with us, start to finish.
But there was one child who sounded happier than the rest. His laughter rang out over the others. He was always the first to call out an idea, to squeal, to clap. And when asked, the boy always had a guess about what came next in the story.
From the stage, I saw that his mother looked worried. She seemed tense. Sometimes she would pull her son close and embrace him, as if her arms could hold back his bursts of laughter or keep him from piping up with comments. In spite of her efforts, his jubilation always won out. Like a geyser of happiness, exuberance bubbled out of him. His mother would get swept up in his delight and forget her concerns…until the next time.
I have seen that situation before, so when the show was over, I approached the mother. She thanked me for a great show and apologized for her son’s distracting behavior.
Hmm. In all our years of performing, we have seen many instances of distracting behavior. But this was not one of those situations. The boy was engaged. He listened attentively when the situation called for it and was interactive with the performers: laughing, giving ideas when asked, and reacting with pleasure. He contributed a great deal to the show’s atmosphere.
However, other situations in that child’s life did not always appreciate his liveliness. The mother didn’t tell me this with her words, I could read it in her eyes.
But storytelling values it. Live storytelling is special and unique because it is interactive. By inviting audience members to say things, to comment, or sing. storytellers incorporate their voices into performed stories, underscoring the interactive nature of the storytelling experience. It makes for a one-of-a-kind performance – a wikishow – shared, in the moment, community-building.
I told the mother that I loved having her son in the audience. At first, she looked surprised, then delighted. “Did you hear the lady, Jakey? She said you were wonderful to have around!” They both beamed. Then, a moment later, the librarian berated the child for something he was doing. The mother sighed and gathered up Jakey. But before leaving the room, she turned, and smiled at me.
But that smile wasn’t really for me. It was for this morphing, amazing, in-the-moment, interactive art.
Live storytelling surely mattered for Jakey and his mom that day.
Copyright 2013 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.